Pretenders--"Mystery Achievement" (mp3)
Right now, sitting in the cupboard pantry that runs down my basement stairs, waits "The 44." The 44 is a homemade liqueur based on a traditional drink in Madagascar. You take a large orange, punch 44 holes in it with a sharp knife, insert a coffee bean into each of the 44 holes, add the orange to a glass canister containing a liter of light rum and 44 teaspoons of sugar, and store in a dark place for 44 days.
The symbolism of the number 44 did not make its way to me, just the recipe. I doubt that I'll even drink the stuff (I'm not much of a hard liquor guy), though they say it's pretty good over ice. Place your order now if you want some.
(UPDATE: I tried "The 44" Friday night, after 42 days, and it kicks ass, or at least mine.)
What I have enjoyed about "The 44" is the waiting. Of course, I had read about how sweet it would be chilled straight up or on the rocks, how it could be mixed with sparkling wine to make a real cocktail, how the coffee taste would hit first and then the orange aftertaste would linger on the tongue. But all of those things could prove to be untrue (they are true!). I have made any number of things that, followed to the letter, didn't yield the pleasures that they were supposed to--love, corned beef, reservations at Brennan's. Yeah, yeah, I know the waiting is the hardest part, as my own posted song reminds me over and over. But I like the waiting. I like the idea that I have to put something up on a shelf and not get into it for awhile, while I always know that it's there and that some point down the road, I'll experience it.
Maybe it's because I bake bread. Once you start that endeavor, you learn quickly that the longer you stretch out each phase, the more flavor and complexity your loaf will have. So you ignore the advice to proof the yeast in very warm water, to let the dough rise in a warm place. Instead, you put the dough in the refrigerator, let it rise overnight, punch the dough down and let it expand three times instead of just two. Bread nutured and baked over the course of several days tastes as noble as the old world itself. And that's a good thing. People who want quickly-made bread deserve it.
It's an irony of life: as you get older, you should, arguably, be more in a hurry to make things happen. But you aren't. You're more likely to let them take their own time. Over Spring Break, I was driving a car that overheated if it was driven too long at too high a speed. Since I had to drive from New Orleans to Tampa, I lamented the fact that I would have to slow way, way down. But you know what? Once I settled into that lower speed, the trip became one of the most pleasurable that I have driven in a long time. No rush, no pressure, no stupid drivng decisions. The traffic roared past me, but I took my time because I had to. It took me a much longer time to get below Tampa, but the wait was worth it. I actually stopped and got the free sample of OJ at the tourist trap.
Waiting, letting things take their time, in this very, very fast world is an odd kind of luxury. It has become, simultaneously, both retro and the latest trend. There's even an international food movement that embraces the notion of slow food. They argue that food should be "good, clean, and fair," and if you explore their connotation of those adjectives, you realize that they are talking about growing and creating food that takes time. Anything that is handmade, made in small batches, constructed to order, microbrewed, grass-fed is taking that same approach.
So when I talk about waiting, I realize that what I'm really talking about is putting in an effort--to cultivate, to nurture, to oversee, to maintain, to protect, to repair --over a long period of time. And don't all of the best things, from relationships to wine, require that?
People often talk about what it will take to get from point A to point B in a linear representation of a problem or situation, but what they're really asking for is the quickest possible solution. In fact, the line between those two labeled points contains an uncountable number of other stops. If you think about it, that's where the life is, in the Big Waiting between point A and point B. Waiting reminds you both of where you are right now and where you can be in the future. Too deep? Make " The 44" and drink up. It's worth the wait.
"The Waiting" is from Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's live CD, Pack Up The Plantation. "Mystery Achievement," arguably the best song on one of the best rock albums ever, is from the Pretender's first. Both are available from Itunes.